Japan has toughest patent system

Japan today has the toughest patent system in the world in terms of the odds of a patentee winning a patent trial against an accused infringer. Japanese trial courts hold against patentees in nearly 90 % of all cases, according to statistics released by the Japanese attorney Eiji Katayama at the “Fordham Conference”, the law school’s Fifteenth Annual Conference on International Intellectual Property Law & Policy that commenced on April 12. For the year 2006, Mr. Katayama reported that for the Tokyo and Osaka District Courts 33 out of 37 final trial decisions ended with a finding of non infringement. Of the 33 patentee losses, two-thirds were decided on the basis of invalidity (22/33) while more than 85 % of the invalidity determinations were keyed to a lack of an inventive step or obviousness (19-22).During the panel discussion at the Fordham Conference, the point was made that on appeal, there is generally an 80% affirmance rate. Prof. Obuchi explained that many of the currently litigated patents had been granted many years ago under a much lower standard of patentability. He indicated that this was one reason for the low rate of patentee success. Mr. Katayama noted a disparity in claim construction methodologies for infringement and validity. The matter is serious enough that it was to be resolved by the Intellectual Property High Court by its Grand Panel division. But, the test case – Toshiba v. Hynix – was ultimately settled before a decision was reached.As noted by Prof. Tetsuya Obuchi at the Fordham Conference, many Japanese patents enforced today are from an earlier era which had lower standards of patentability than today, thus in part explaining the very low success rate for patentees in their infringement suits. A helpful perspective is provided by former Deputy Commissioner Shinjiro Ono, who has been responsible much of the recent push for higher quality examination at the PTO.prof. Hal Wegner

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